LONDON — Members of the British House of Commons voted to continue indefinitely with emergency COVID-19 legislation to allow women to obtain abortion pills by mail after an online consultation.
After the vote, Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster, the lead bishop for life issues of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said the vote “fundamentally changes access to abortion.”
Members of the House of Commons voted 215-188 March 30 for an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill to continue the “do-it-yourself abortion” plan indefinitely. The vote means the amendment will become law in England and Wales.
Under the system, after a tele-medical assessment, women are sent two pills to procure an abortion — the first to induce a miscarriage and the second to cause the uterus to contract and expel its contents.
The emergency measure was announced March 28, 2020, three days after the start of the first national lockdown, when women could not visit their doctors in person, and the government intended to end it Aug. 30, 2022. Before that time, all women seeking an abortion had to obtain the written consent of two doctors, including at an in-person appointment, and the pills had to be ingested in a clinical setting in the event of any complications.
“Such a move diminishes the seriousness with which these decisions should be taken,” Sherrington said in a March 31 statement posted on the website of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference.
“Not only will this endanger the lives of the unborn, but also the lives of women,” he said. “It is clear from the evidence over the last two years on the self-administration of these drugs at home that they pose grave physical and psychological dangers to women.”
Catherine Robinson of Right to Life UK, a pro-life lobby group, also said in a March 30 statement that the amendment removed vital safeguards.
“This will put thousands more women at risk from ‘DIY’ home abortion services,” she said, adding that one study from November “suggested that more than 10,000 women had to receive hospital treatment following the use of medical abortion pills in England between April 2020 and September 2021.”
“By removing a routine in-person consultation that allows medical practitioners to certify gestation and recognize potential coercion or abuse, ‘at-home’ abortion has presented serious risks to women and girls in abusive situations,” she said.
“It has allowed severe complications to occur, as well as abortions beyond the legal limit (of 24 weeks), as abortion providers currently cannot ensure the pills are taken by the intended individual within the appropriate time frame.”